Ryan explains why Jets selected Scott over Lewis

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
With as much money as the New York Jets threw around Friday, there couldn't have been any constraints on which linebacker they wanted to pursue.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan, the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, made signing inside linebacker Bart Scott the Jets' mission on the opening day of free agency. They bagged him for six years, $48 million.

Why did Ryan, who is raiding his old team, prefer Scott over the Ravens' other free-agent inside linebacker, Ray Lewis?

"Well, there were a few reasons," Ryan explained Friday night on a conference call. "When you look at them from the playing standpoint, they are both outstanding players.

"Ray is a Hall of Fame player and is still one of the premier 'backers in the league. I think with Bart, you get a guy who's young. He's got as good of coverage skills as any inside linebacker in the game. He's a violent player that plays with great passion as, of course, does Ray."

Scott will turn 29 in training camp. Lewis will turn 34 in May. Lewis wasn't signed on the first day of free agency, but he'll get his money.

Ryan also noted Scott gives the Jets the ability to better disguise their defense. Lewis always lines up at the mike (strong side) position. Scott can line up at the mike or will (weak side) position. So can Jets holdover David Harris, allowing them to move them around to keep offenses guessing.

"Ray is, obviously, the premier middle linebacker in the game, the mike 'backer," Ryan said. "But I think the flexibility we have with David Harris and Bart Scott is just going to be difficult to identify who the mike is.

"It doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but, trust me, it is. The offense is setting protections against a mike linebacker. If they can't find him, that's going to give them some problems, and I think those two guys right there are going to be quite a pair.

"When you look at our linebacking corps overall, we probably have as good of a linebacking corps as there is in this league, probably right up there with Baltimore and really anybody else."